After several incidents of denial of protocol to Indian dignitaries at foreign airports,the Ministry of Civil Aviation has decided that Aerodrome Entry Permits (AEPs) would henceforth be issued to high commissions or embassies of other countries only on a reciprocal basis.
It has also been proposed that access of Indian VIPs to airports be restricted,preferably only up to the terminal building.
The US and European countries do not grant entry permits to Indian embassies,but,on the recommendation of the Ministry of External Affairs,permanent as well as transferrable AEPs are issued to embassies based in India. As per the details of a soon-to-be released AEP policy,details of which were accessed by The Indian Express,that will now be stopped.
A few select embassies enjoy the facility of transferrable AEPs,the details of which are not even forwarded to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS).
The colour-coded AEP scheme,which offered unhindered access,shall now be discontinued and the airport divided into 11 zones. This would restrict the access of the AEP holder to the area of his/ her work only.
The BCAS has issued around 2,000 permanent AEPs to embassies,judges,former and serving bureaucrats,various ministries,and some top officials for extending protocol. Any permit issued for more than 90 days is deemed permanent,and could be valid for up to three years. Temporary permits,numbering around 1.5 lakh,are issued for reasons that are operational (to pilots and cabin crew) or commercial (to shops within the airport area).
One of the suggestions in the new policy is that the BCAS be stripped of the power to issue AEPs and that the same be given to the Airports Authority of India.
While an orange colour AEP allowed access to all areas in all airports of the country,purple provided access to all areas of a particular airport,light brown to arrival/ departure areas in international terminals up to the immigration counters,navy blue to all areas except the security hold area,white to apron area only,light green to arrival/ departure excluding Customs.
While light brown AEPs are generally issued to former presidents and vice-presidents of India and former prime ministers for protocol purposes,their access may now be limited to Zone C or terminal building,other than security hold,immigration and Customs areas. Light Brown AEPs are also issued to the staff of union ministers.
All government ministries/ departments which had brown/ purple permits will now be issued AEPs for Zone C only. Members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,who were earlier issued two AEPs each (for staff),will now have zonal access AEPs only.
Those who would continue to have all-zone access courtesy orange AEPs,across all airports,would be officials of the PMO,Cabinet Secretariat,intelligence agencies,Election Commission,and home,civil aviation and external affairs ministries. Former civil aviation secretaries and former BCAS commissioners also enjoy the privilege of orange AEPs.
Individuals convicted of serious crimes like possession and use of hard and soft drugs,trafficking and possession of illegal weapons,assault,endangering public safety and sex-related crimes will not be issued AEPs. According to the proposed AEP policy,it would be the responsibilty of the sponsoring authority where an AEP holder works to inform in case an individual was found involved in a crime or misuse of permit.
In case of urgent operational requirement (such as grounded aircraft),temporary AEPs shall be issued to foreign nationals for up to six days.
Earlier,the BCAS had recommended that permanent AEPs issued for VIP protocol and transferable passes made available to embassies be scrapped. The regulator proposed that only non-transferrable,one-time permits be issued for receiving VIPs and for diplomatic formalities at airports.
A BCAS official had told The Indian Express that permanent AEPs for protocol were a violation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) guidelines,under which the security hold area is sacrosanct,with no provision for protocol. It is a security nightmare and officials insist on going right up to the ladder point,and even inside the aircraft,to receive their VIPs. There is additional load on security infrastructure,as normal frisking and procedures get disrupted, the official had stated.